A summary of a recent fact-finding trip to Uganda by Hannah Couchman, agricultural advisor to Anglican International Development
Uganda – the beautiful, vibrant country to the south of South Sudan, and one which has suffered its own conflict – has an open doors policy when it comes to refugees. It is the only country in the world where refugees are given: the right to stay, the right to work and a plot of land on which to build a home and grow food. Uganda is home to refugees from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African nations. However, it is the recent influx of South Sudanese refugees which will push the country to the 1 million refugee mark in the next couple of months.
South Sudan is one of the most fertile countries in the world and yet agricultural skill is lacking. South Sudan could feed itself and its neighbouring countries yet imports over 75% of its food. AID has been eager to develop agriculture in South Sudan for some time but recent political instability has put any plans on hold.
The situation in Uganda – large numbers of South Sudanese refugees being given land in the same area – presents a wonderful opportunity to help South Sudanese people develop agricultural skills in a relatively stable environment. So AID has developed a vision to see refugees well trained in agriculture, returning to their homes across South Sudan with the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty and develop the nation!
In light of this vision, Chris Goodship (AID’s Development officer) and I travelled to Uganda in January – a few meetings in our diaries and excited about what God had in store for AID!
Foundations for Farming
The first person we met was Bullen – a new friend with a real passion for helping the needy. South Sudanese by birth, Bullen recently returned to East Africa from the United States. While he was in the States he discovered Foundations for Farming, ‘an initiative aimed at bringing transformation to individuals, communities and nations through faithful and productive use of land’, and an organisation for which I have worked. Through this he developed a love for conservation agriculture, the Gospel and God’s call to make a plan for the poor. He is in Uganda about to start training refugees in one of the settlements in conservation agriculture . It was great to meet up with him and chat about what life is like in the settlements and his plans for agricultural training.
A Potential Partner
Next we travelled to Jinja, a town to the east of Kampala where you can whitewater raft down the Nile river (!), to meet Reverend Thomas Lubari and his wife Joyce (right) who founded an organisation called Life Gospel Ministries. Born in Uganda to South Sudanese parents, Thomas is a wonderful hybrid of the two nations making him perfectly placed among both the Ugandans and South Sudanese people he works with. Life Gospel Ministries takes a broad approach to ‘ministry’ and Thomas – while studying for a doctorate in theology and leading a local church – also manages to carry out trauma counselling training for refugees, Foundations for Farming teaching all over the country and links youth from S.Sudan and Uganda to vocational training opportunities in IT and cosmetology. We chatted to him about agriculture, business, the church and development and he was willing to partner with us in our plans to train South Sudanese in agriculture.
Farming on Poor Soil
We were encouraged by the example of Shem and Catherine Mabangor (left), who live in Mbale with their three children, one cow, numerous chickens and goats! Amongst many other ministries, the couple are demonstrating Foundations for Farming principles on their small plot of land. They remain positive despite the challenges of poor soil, bad seed and theft. They hope to be an example to the other villagers and encourage them to farm in the same way.
Development in Refugee Camps
Finally we met some of the helpful staff from World Renew. This was a great chance to find out more about work in Uganda’s refugee settlements. They shared the challenges and opportunities facing a camp as it moves from functioning at an emergency relief level to a phase of development. In this phase they are starting to think more about food security: the development of kitchen gardens and larger scale food production will be the key to improving nutrition and achieving food security in these settlements and into the future.
All in all, it was a great week in Uganda. We met some amazing and inspiring people and have a good idea of the kind of work that we can help with. It is encouraging to see opportunities to work with the South Sudanese people who have lost, in many cases, everything, but also to work with host communities to continue to develop the country of Uganda which has opened its doors to people in desperate need.
Please pray for AID’s plans to develop an agriculture project amongst South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and watch this space for developments!